How to Skip the Gate Fee and Get to the Sydney Airport for Cheap!

Chances are, if you are visiting Australia (or even New Zealand really) you will be flying in/out of the Sydney airport. Dan and I flew into and out of Sydney 6 times while we were traveling in Australia and New Zealand. Australia’s biggest city also has the country’s biggest and busiest airport. But what’s the best way to get to and from Sydney’s airport when you are traveling on a budget?

The only options for getting to or from this airport are a taxi (expensive), the train, or the only city bus that goes to the airport, bus #400 from Bondi Junction. The bus is definitely the cheapest option, but it only really works if you are coming from Bondi Junction. If you happen to be staying around there, by all means take the bus, but for everyone else, going all the way out to Bondi Junction to get on a bus for over an hour just seems crazy. Plus there is a better way to save yourself some money while getting to the airport.

In my opinion, the most obvious travel option to the airport is the train. It is definitely fast; only 15 minutes from the center of Sydney. But there is a catch when traveling by train to Sydney’s airport. There is a special gate fee for exiting at both the domestic and international terminal train stations. The story goes that the reason for these fees is because before the 2000 olympics, the government wanted to add an easier way to get to the airport than the bus. They hired a private company to build the airport link – a 4-stop detour on the green line – and the private company decided to charge gate fees on all 4 of it’s stations to recoup their investment. I’m going to assume that the local community complained about their suburban stations costing substantially more than nearby stations, because eventually the extra charges were removed from the suburban stations. But not from the 2 airport train stations!

Additional fees to get to the airport aren’t new. You find them at most major airports. Here in New York City you can get to JFK International Airport on the subway – it will only cost you $2.50 – but to actually get to the terminals you have to pay to take the AirTrain. That will set you back an additional $5. So $7.50 total to get from anywhere in NYC to any terminal at JFK International. The gate fee to exit at Sydney’s airport terminals is $12.60 AUD ($11.42 USD). That’s on top of the $3.80 to $4.60 AUD ($3.44 to $4.17 USD) that the train trip out to that neck of the woods costs. This means that to get off of the train the stop before the domestic terminal costs $3.80 AUD ($3.44 USD) from city center, but to get off at the domestic airport terminal costs $16.40 AUD ($14.86 USD). The international terminal is a bit farther away (Sydney prices their stops by distance), so from city center it will cost you $16.40 to $17.20 AUD ($14.86 to $15.59 USD). And to get to the stop after the international terminal? That only costs $3.80 to $4.60 AUD ($3.44 to $4.17 USD). Dan and I weren’t having that so we thought let’s see if we can circumnavigate the system.

Crossing the bridge to the International Terminal.

Crossing the bridge to the International Terminal.

Turns out, it isn’t really that hard. Both trips are flat and right around a mile from the train station to the terminal. This is the beauty of traveling light. Throughout the trip I kept saying that we have time but not so much money. Well if you are in the same boat, I highly recommend walking!

To get to the Domestic Terminal:

Get off the train at Mascot. This will cost you $3.80 AUD from Sydney CBD. Walk south on Bourke Road. Continue south on O’Riordan Street. The entrance to the domestic terminal will be obvious! This walk is more straight forward than the walk to the international terminal. This is really easy! Totally worth doing if you have an extra 20 minutes and aren’t dragging a big, heavy rolling bag behind you.

Follow that sign!

Follow that sign!

To get to the International Terminal:

This one is a bit more complicated, but there is at least one sign (see above)! Take the train to Wolli Creek. This will cost you $3.80 to $4.60 AUD from Sydney CBD. When you exit, walk down Brodie Spark Drive. At the end of the drive you will see a park along a river’s edge across the street. Cross the street and walk in the park along the river’s edge. Stay along the river’s edge until you have to bear right to make sure you can get on the walkway along the bridge that crosses the river. Cross the river. On the other side you will see the sign in the picture above. Follow the sign and cross under the overpass. Keep to the left for a few minutes until you see the international terminal on your right. This walk includes a park! Totally worth it before a long international flight.

I hope this tutorial will encourage you, brave readers, to consider sticking it to the man and saving yourselves a few bucks before your flight out of Sydney. Travel safely!

Travel Cost Breakdown From Our Time in Europe

“I really want to travel around Europe, but it’s so expensive!”

We have heard this comment many times since we have been traveling the world. Yes, Europe is expensive but we are here to help you learn what kind of hit your wallet should actually expect.

Dan and I wrote down every penny we spent (converted from Euros to pennies using this app), put together a kick-butt spreadsheet, and are here to break it all down for you.

Molly examining trip expenses in our travel notebook

Calculating trip expenses in our travel notebook

We spent a total of 72 days in continental Europe. Our average cost per day was $140.58. That’s $70.29 per person. A totally reasonable amount, if I do say so myself. Here is how it all breaks down:

Europe Expenses Graph

Europe Expenses Pie Chart

In Europe, our biggest expense was lodging. (Just like it was in the UK and Ireland!) Housing came out to an average of $49.68 per night. We almost exclusively used AirBnB in Europe and had a private room every night. For a couple, AirBnB is a very effective cost saving strategy since the price is usually per room and not per person like it is at hostels. Also since most AirBnB listings are in someone’s actual home, you get the added bonus of access to a kitchen.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

We usually went out to eat for lunch, but cooked most of our own dinners. This is a fabulous way to save money as groceries are definitely cheaper than meals at restaurants. By eating out for lunch we still got a chance to try all of the fabulous vegan restaurants around Europe at lunchtime prices. This is how we got our food expenses down to $39.35 per day (total for both of us) while eating out about once a day.

The next biggest expense we had in Europe was transportation between locations. One thing we did to bring down the cost of travel around Europe was to buy a Eurail Pass here in the US before traveling to Europe. It’s important to think long and hard about what kind of pass you will need before making a purchase, though, as unused trips are just wasted money. We went with a Benelux-Germeny pass of 10 trips over a two month period. We did spend over a month in the rail pass area, but it turned out that we mostly used the pass in Germany. Germany is probably one of the most expensive countries to travel by train in Europe, so the pass worked out well for us. We loved seeing Germany by train, but you could probably get around Germany for even cheaper by taking buses or using car-sharing websites.

If you are interested in traveling Europe by rail and are headed to Italy, be aware that trains are pretty darn cheap in Italy. Don’t waste your money on a rail pass in Italy! Just buy the tickets as you go. In Italy, the prices for all non-highspeed trains remain the same even as the travel date approaches.

We did not fly once while we were in Europe. We avoided flying by taking a city-to-city approach to Europe. We started in Paris and we knew that we were flying out of Europe from Rome so we planned between those two dates. If you are planning to hop around Europe, though, there are many cheap airlines available. Our favorite site for comparing flights in Europe and around the world was SkyScanner, but we cross-checked all prices with Kayak to make sure we were getting the best price.

Our “entertainment” section covered mostly museums while we were in Europe. Again, we kept the cost of museums down by checking if a museum has a free or pay-what-you-wish day online before heading anywhere, and by using our student ID cards. We also took free walking tours all over Europe and enjoyed every single one of them. Be sure to tip your guide! They are all so fantastic and live off of the tips they earn.

The miscellaneous section is always our smallest, as we had no room for souvenirs in our bags, but every so often we would mail a postcard or gift, or buy some painkillers. (Ibuprofen is SO cheap in the UK compared to Europe or anywhere else we have been. Just a tip!) As a result, this makes up the last 4% of our Europe expenses pie chart.

I hope this has been informative and helps you plan your trip to Europe. Please let us know if we left out any information you would find useful in the comments section below!

Also, check out the post Dan wrote about our cost breakdown from our time in the UK and Ireland! If you are having trouble deciding what to pack for your trip, check out my post on packing light for long term travel!

Why We Travel: Penguins!

Melbourne was our favorite city in Australia. It doesn’t get as much hype as Sydney, Australia’s largest city, but we loved this artsy, diverse and walkable city. Melbourne has many draws and a big one for us was the beach suburb of St. Kilda. We aren’t really beach people, so there must be something really special about a beach to make us trek out there. St. Kilda has several things going for it – including being a home for penguins! Let’s walk through the day so you can see what makes this hour-long trip on the tram worth it:

St. Kilda beach. Beautiful and (on the day we were there) empty!

St. Kilda beach. Beautiful and (on the day we were there) empty!

The beach is big and beautiful. When we got there in the afternoon the beach was deserted. It was a bit chilly, yes, but it was deserted mostly because it was super windy! We were being whipped by sand, which is even less pleasant than you are imagining. We just a quick walk along the water’s edge then we got the heck away from there!

Luna Park

Luna Park

Melbourne has it’s very own Luna Park! After doing some research, the Luna Parks around the world are not actually related and the name was simply borrowed. This Luna Park originally opened in 1912! Like the Luna Park in Coney Island, it has a wooden roller coaster.

Making funny faces (Dan didn't get the memo) in the crazy mirrors.

Making funny faces (Dan didn’t get the memo) in the crazy mirrors.

We wandered the park for a while, made some silly faces and had some fun. No rides for us as many were actually closed for the afternoon because of the strong winds!

After our Luna Park fun, it was time to head to dinner. Lucky for us vegans, there is at least one excellent option in St. Kilda for dinner: Lentil as Anything. Lentil as Anything is a vegetarian (mostly vegan) not-for-profit restaurant with an awesome concept. It is pay what you wish. The St. Kilda location has been surviving on this concept ever since it opened in 2001. Beautiful! And the food:

Savory vegan pancakes.

Savory vegan pancakes.

Pumpkin curry on the left, dal on the right.

Pumpkin curry on the left, dal on the right.

Beautiful, healthy, homely, and tasty. I love the Lentil as Anything concept and was really happy to support them and enjoy their tasty food. There was a wait, as I assume there almost always is, but it wasn’t too long and we made some friends while waiting!

After dinner it was time for the main event! The reason we traveled an hour by tram from Melbourne’s central business district: Penguins! Little (or Fairy) Penguins, to be precise.

Luna Park and the Palais Theatre at sunset.

Luna Park and the Palais Theatre at sunset.

The penguins don’t come back to dry land until it is getting dark to avoid predators, so we started walking out to the St. Kilda breakwater, where the colony lives, at sunset.

Sunset off of the St. Kilda breakwater.

Sunset off of the St. Kilda breakwater.

Then it was penguin time!

Little (Fairy) Penguin #1.

Little (Fairy) Penguin #1.

At St. Kilda, they smartly built a little walkway for humans that takes you right next to the penguins without allowing you to walk on their breakwater home. This way the penguins are safe to inhabit their home but the humans can get within 4 feet of them! It was amazing how close we were.

Little (Fairy) Penguin #2.

Little (Fairy) Penguin #2.

These cuties are the world’s smallest penguins, only growing to 13 inches high and 3 lbs! They have excellent vision, hence the strict orders to not use flash photography. So, sorry for the slightly dark photos. We were just protecting their eyes!

Little (Fairy) Penguin #3.

Little (Fairy) Penguin #3.

At the St. Kilda breakwater, there is a trained volunteer working there every night, available to answer any questions you have about these adorable penguins. We would have stuck around longer and pestered her with a million questions (and stared at the penguins for hours, obviously), but it was still insanely windy and the waves were crashing over the breakwater and drenching us!

So, if you are ever in Melbourne, we highly recommend taking a little side trip to St. Kilda for a day of beach fun, awesome vegan food, a beautiful sunset, and penguins! Just choose a nicer day than we did!

This is the End. And the Beginning.

We are sitting in our last airport of the trip waiting for our flight. Our last plane ride for the foreseeable future. And of course, because we are heading home to New York in the middle of the coldest winter in recent history, we are delayed by weather. Possibly our first flight delay on our whole 6 month trip. Weird.

And weird is exactly how I feel about it. Being so extremely happy and sad at the same time is strange. I know that a few hours from now when we are descending into New York City I will be crying. New York is family to me. It is the place I was born and the place I have chosen to spend my life. It holds many of my dear family and friends.

But this trip has really changed a lot for me. I am so lucky now to get to say that I have wonderful friends all over the world, and I have seen so many beautiful and interesting places. Somehow, loving all of the destinations and people I have met makes me love New York even more. I’m hoping all of this travel experience leads to a few things. Post-trip resolutions, you could say:

  1. I hope that I appreciate and take advantage of all of the amazing activities New York City has to offer, the way I made sure to take advantage of all of the interesting places and events in all of the cities we visited around the world.
  2. I hope – and plan to – keep in touch with all of the wonderful people I met around the world. Having friends around the world makes the world seem smaller and kinder. I also feel much more in tune with what is happening outside of my American bubble now.
  3. Along those lines, I hope to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Yes, we did miss them while we were gone, but more than that we want to make sure they all know how much we appreciate them! Good friends are precious and I want my friends to know that they are precious to me.
  4. I plan to share with everyone how doable long term travel is. It involves sacrifices, but if you want to travel and see the world, they are sacrifices worth making! This is especially true for vegan travelers.
  5. Lastly, I plan to be happy. It sounds a bit dumb, and the cynical New Yorker in me is cringing a bit, but I came to understand while on this trip that happiness is a choice. There are many things that make being happy easier – surrounding yourself with happy people, loving what you do, letting things slide off your back more easily – and I plan to try and do the things that make me happy. The cynical New Yorker in me says to remember this one when someone is holding the subway door making me late to somewhere!

So those are my post-trip resolutions. I think many of them can convert to anyone living anywhere. Even if you haven’t traveled. We tend to take for granted what we have around us, but there is always something new to see and explore in your own backyard. So have an adventure at home, if an adventure far away is out of reach right now. And keep an eye out here as we will continue to share travel stories and tips for the foreseeable future. I think 6 months of travel gave us enough fodder to fill the gap until our next big adventure. But we also promise New York City sights (and vegan food!) along the way, as I want to share what makes my city so special as well.

Okay, time to board. Talk to you all on the flipside!

What We Packed For Our Six-Month ‘Round-the-World Trip

We should really just dive right into this, as it’s going to be a long, bullet-pointed travel packing list. Many (MANY!) people have asked us what we brought on our 6-month journey around the world. Particularly once they find out we have less than 10kg of stuff to each of our names. Obviously it’s pretty much just the essentials. But what are the essentials for a round-the-world trip covering many different climates? Here is what got us through:

***Before I dive into what we brought, I want to put in a disclaimer here. All the links below that link to products on Amazon.com are affiliate links. This means if you buy something after clicking through our links we get a very small commission. I just wanted to be upfront about it! We are hoping it pays back the cost of running this site (eventually). We certainly aren’t making a living doing this. And we would never link to anything we didn’t truly love and use constantly on this trip. We just wanted you to know!***

Molly’s clothes:

Molly's clothes

Molly’s clothes

  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 5 pairs of socks (these are the best socks ever. No blisters! I use them at home too)
  • 3 bras (2 regular, one sports)
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 pair of pants (that zip into capris)
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 dress
  • 1 skirt
  • 5 long sleeved garments (one heavy fleece, one button up light jacket, 3 long sleeved shirts. The fleece was a later addition on a freezing day where I forgot a sweater. I think 4 long sleeved garments are likely enough.)
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 5 tank tops (including an older version of this one from the amazing Vaute Couture)
  • 1 sarong (all-purpose. It can be a towel, a skirt, pretty much anything.)
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 t-shirt for sleeping in (a super-comfy t-shirt.)
  • 1 pair of athletic shorts for sleeping in
  • Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It 2 Sided Cube (Everything except the heaviest outerwear fits in here)
  • Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Mesh Stuffer Bag (I used this as my dirty laundry bag)

Dan’s clothes:

Dan's clothes. Artfully arranged by Dan!

Dan’s clothes. Artfully arranged by Dan!

Miscellaneous things:

medical and toiletry products, games, and some miscellaneous things.

medical and toiletry products, games, and some miscellaneous things.

Top left. It goes into that blue flowery bag:

  • Pads and tampons (these are the necessities of life…)
  • Small glass nail file (borrowed from my mom) and travel nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • 2 eye masks and earplugs taken from an airplane flight (rarely used, but good for the occasional loud or bright hostel)
  • Hair ties and a brush
  • 2 packages of dry laundry soap sheets (essential!)
  • Dan’s extra glasses and my glasses

Top middle 3 ziplock bags:

  • The left one is our shower stuff. It contains a plastic container with dry conditioner (purchased at Lush), a plastic container with a bar of soap in it, a small container of shampoo (under 3 oz), a tiny bottle of face wash for my pimply face, and a few razors.
  • The two right ziplocks are our liquids bags (when we are flying the shampoo and face wash get added to these). At this point in the trip they are getting pretty empty. But I will tell you that when we left I brought 5 containers of vegan contact solution, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, face cream, hand lotion, a stain stick and maybe a few other travel-sized liquids. The bags were very full. Your liquids needs will vary, and change with time over the course of your travels just like ours did.

Top right:

Middle left. Fits in the quart-sized ziplock bag:

  • Small travel medical kit. We added things to a pre-made kit. We added extra bandaids and neosporin.
  • Temperature-stable, vegan probiotics. These were purchased on the road. Sometimes eating out all the time gets to my stomach. These help.
  • Medical tape
  • Moleskin
  • A small container of ibuprophen and a small container of pepto-bismol
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine and antibiotics (we have never had to use these, but we figured better to have it just in case! My doctor prescribed the antibiotics for me specifically for the trip before I left. Just in case!)

Bottom left in the ziplock bag: Dan’s electric razor with its accessories, and Dan’s contacts.

Bottom left corner: Games! Hive Pocket, Struggle For Catan – the Settlers of Catan card game, and a deck of cards.

Bottom right side:

Electronics, rain gear, and miscellaneous stuff.

Electronics, rain gear, and miscellaneous stuff.

  • Shoes! 1 pair sneakers, 1 pair water sandals, 1 pair flip flops for each of us.
  • 1 lightweight umbrella
  • 1 waterproof raincoat each (essential!)
  • 1 fleece sleeping bag each (essential!)
  • Cords for all of our electronics
  • The electronics: 1 Chromebook, 1 iPhone 4s, 1 iPhone 3gs as a backup, 1 knockoff Nokia Lumia 925 purchased in Cambodia, 2 Kindles (one old and one new), 1 Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS19 (great camera, but a bit of dust got stuck between the lenses about 3 months into our travels), 1 Fujifilm FinePix XP60 (our camera for the final 3 months of our trip. Great for the underwater photography we did at the Great Barrier Reef!), 1 iPod nano, 1 64GB usb stick.
  • The outlet adapters. Yes, we had a different one for each country, but these adapters are so good and reliable, I thought they were worth it. They do not convert voltage (those would be transformers), but if your electronics are relatively modern a transformer is not necessary. We didn’t need one for any of our electronics.
  • A loop lock
  • The best travel power strip ever.
  • A mesh bag for all the cords.
  • Sunglasses
  • A microfiber travel towel.
  • A bandana.
  • A visor.
  • A blanket/skirt. (purchased in Thailand so Dan could get into a Wat, but then he really liked using it as a blanket so he kept it.)
  • A daypack with all of the things in the bottom left corner of the picture in the top pocket of the backpack (lip balm with spf, headphones, a headphone splitter, earplugs, B12 pills, house keys, a pen and pencil, probiotics and ibuprofen, our expenses notebook and Dan’s notebook. The water bottle goes in the backpack side pocket.
  • Not shown are our computer case that the Chromebook goes in, and the money belt that comes with us everywhere.

This is what it looks like all packed up:

All of our stuff all packed up for our 6-month trip.

All of our stuff all packed up for our 6-month trip.

Was everything above used on this trip? Nope. We haven’t touched the duct tape once and almost the entire medical ziplock bag has gone unused. But am I glad we have those things just in case? Yup! The biggest surprise of the trip was how much we used that little hand-crank flashlight.

If any women out there are looking for a new backpacking backpack, I highly recommend mine: The Gregory Sage 45 backpack. I’m 5’3″ and I wear a size small backpack. It’s comfortable, a good size and shape, and fits in overhead bins. Don’t ask about Dan’s bag, though. It’s a knock-off he bought in Cambodia!

Okay, I think that’s a long enough packing list for you. For the record, this stuff we brought covered us over 3 continents and from temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Please let us know if you have any questions about what we packed or how we packed it in the comments and we will be sure to answer them!